Tuesday, September 24, 2019

What has happened to adulthood?

I will admit that I play fantasy football. I have a collection of 75 Chewbaccas. When I get together with my cousins, we sometimes play Nintendo, and we're in our 40s.

Let's be honest. A lot of adult behavior like this is perfectly acceptable nowadays, but it would be unheard of a generation or two ago.

Americans typically put off adulthood as long as they can, and then when they have some semblance of being an adult, they often act like children and raise kids by giving them phones and iPads and escaping themselves into oblivion.

Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse addresses this true, yet sad, state of affairs in The Vanishing American Adult (2017). I wholeheartedly respond to the book because it's spot on and true. I also like the fact that he's a Republican because I am not but open to views from all. I see what he sees in modern-day America.

Sasse writes that Americans are wrapped up in consumerism and are lacking in spirituality and empathy. He recommends four main actions for a better life and society: 1) work hard, 2) resist consumerism, 3) read widely and 4) have families live in a place different from their home.

I love his recommendations, but the truth is that so many Americans are working so hard without enough of a payoff that they are vulnerable to work exhaustion. They don't have the strength or education to resist consumerism or read. Living in a different place would be great, too, but that assumes the means and no-how to do so.

I see The Vanishing American Adult from two perspectives, personally and systemically. Personally, I agree. I learned a long time ago that we can't truly trust many of our country's institutions — the education system, health-care system, welfare — to take care of us.
Health care is a glaring example. Are we in good hands with this system? Oh, god, no. We have to do everything in our power to stay healthy. We should do our best to stay away from pharmaceuticals and know that health care is bottom-line driven.

Education is another example. It's real easy to get a college degree and not really be educated. For a lot of people, that's their plan. They want a vocation, not an education, and they're cool with that. Well, that doesn't work for me or my kids. So we understand that we have to fight to be educated.

With Sasse's book, I obviously respond to the importance to read widely, but sadly the average American hardly reads any more. When Sasse talks about resisting consumerism, that is a huge point. There is just so much available and at the consumer's fingertips that it is easy to get wrapped up into a life of mere consumption.

I have been guilty of binge watching three or four hour-long Netflix shows in a row. Some of my students report that they do the same thing — daily. We have so much content and products readily available, that I have learned that less is more. We are not at our best when consuming takes over our days, and we lose connections with our family, friends and a connection to nature and actual life.

Systemically, Sasse's book could have been titled The Vanishing Middle Class. America is strongest when we have a strong middle class, and the way wealth has gone, the middle class as I know it is either gone or has jumped up to upper.

When there is no economic hope, what is a brother to do? He will escape. He will live a life that isn't his or full. He will live a life not in real time because that real time is painful. That is what is happening across our nation, and I pray we have individuals who can embrace their adulthoods, find spiritual meaning and lead lives of hopes.

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